- Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A federal judge has given attorneys for the city of New Orleans and Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman more time to come up with a plan for long-term housing of mentally ill inmates.

U.S. District Judge Lance Africk’s order on Friday approved a deadline extension requested by the city and the Sheriff’s Office. Acutely mentally ill inmates from New Orleans currently are housed at the state’s Hunt Correctional facility in St. Gabriel.

Africk had set a Friday deadline for an agreement on longer term housing of the mentally ill inmates and for a framework on handling the sheriff’s jail funding requests from the city.

Under the latest order, the two sides now have until Feb. 12 to reach the agreement.

Jail funding and housing of mentally ill detainees have been among long-standing points of contention between Gusman and Mayor Mitch Landrieu in a jail reform court case overseen by Africk.



Court filings show that the agreement with the state to house mentally ill New Orleans inmates at Hunt expires in July 2017.

In their joint motion, lawyers for both sides say they have contacted the state corrections secretary to discuss an extension of the lease at Hunt “in an effort for the parties to have a viable, long term solution in place for when those inmates are returned to New Orleans.”

As for Africk’s order that a framework be established for handling sheriff’s money requests, the motion says the city has proposed a framework and the two sides plan to continue negotiations.

Improvement of mental health facilities for Orleans Parish inmates is one element of an agreement Africk approved in 2013 to settle a lawsuit by inmates and the U.S. Justice Department against Gusman.

The lawsuit was over conditions at the once notoriously violent and dangerous lockup. Earlier this year, inmates were moved to a new $150 million facility but disagreements persisted over various issues, including whether that facility should be renovated to provide space for the mentally ill or whether another facility is needed.

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